Confined to quarters? No problem.

Part of the purpose of the Forvie blog, when it was set up during the long hot summer of 2019, was to bring the Reserve and its wildlife to the people. Anyone that couldn’t actually visit the Reserve, whether through geographical distance, lack of transport or any other issues, could still enjoy it and be part of it via these pages.

Now, in the spring of 2020, we all find ourselves in that situation, with everyone effectively confined to quarters at home for the time being – so we’ll try our best to give you your fix of wildlife, maybe a bit of education and hopefully some entertainment as usual. We’ll start off with a summary of what’s happening locally in the natural world, combined with things you can look out for from the comfort of your own home, allowing you to remain connected with nature while still complying with the very necessary restrictions. Here we go…

1. Plants waking up

Across the Reserve and local area in recent times, we’ve been seeing gradual signs of the flora springing into life. Trees and shrubs are putting on fresh buds and leaves, bringing a welcome splash of colour to the bleached, monochrome landscape of late winter. If you have a garden, or even a window with a view of the street outside, chances are that if you look out just now, you too will be able to detect similar signs.

Willow catkins
Elder in fresh leaf
Rowan buds just opening
Flowering Currant – a naturalised species that’s a great early source of nectar
The humble Dandelion – another important nectar source for early-emerging insects

2. Early insects

We’ve already had reports of, or seen first-hand, the first emerging insects of the spring. These include bumblebees as well as colourful butterflies such as Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell. If your view from home takes in any flowering plants, keep half an eye out for one of these early risers topping up on sugar-rich nectar, or basking in a warm sunny spot like a wall, fence or patio.

Small Tortoiseshell

3. Migrant birds

It’s bird migration season as well. The first Sandwich Tern was reported by a local resident back on the Ythan Estuary in the week, but you don’t have to be out and about to spot migration in action. For example, our garden hosted a Chiffchaff last weekend – a summer visitor from the south – while winter visitors, like Whooper Swans and Pink-footed Geese, continue to depart to the north. If you can see some sky from your window, see if you can spot a skein of northbound geese, or if you’re really lucky, a family party of swans on their way back to Iceland for the summer.

Whooper Swans in flight
Pink-footed Geese on the move

4. Nest builders

If you’re fortunate enough to have a garden with some tree or shrub cover – or you overlook such habitat – you might see some construction work going on. Our garden on the edge of the Reserve currently has a couple of species prospecting. A pair of Blackbirds are beadily eyeing the thick cover of the Privet bushes, while two pairs of Goldfinces are squabbling over the Flowering Currant, a prime nest site. It won’t be long before they’re busily ferrying beakfuls of moss and grass into their new residences.

Female Blackbird rummaging around for nesting material
Goldfinch eyeing up a potential nest site

5. Water life

If your garden has a pond, this is likely to be a hive of activity just now. Many water creatures – invertebrates, amphibians etc – will be waking up from their winter dormancy, and gearing up for the forthcoming months of long daylight hours and increased temperatures. And that means breeding time! Frogs are a great example, with some ponds already dense with frogspawn.

Frogs, in the process of making more frogs

So although we may not be able to visit the Reserve for the next wee while, there’s no reason to lose touch with nature. Wherever you are, you have a chance to see some of the things mentioned in this article from your own home. We’ll post some more home-wildlife-watching features soon – so in the meantime stay home, stay well and stay connected with nature!